Joan Didion Helped Me Tell My Own Story

Her Language and Landscapes Carved Out a Literary Space for My San Bernardino Childhood

When I arrived at Stanford, I was immediately confronted with the clues of my inferiority.

The other students had straight white teeth, more than one week’s worth of clothing, and “pocket money.” All I had was a load of imposter syndrome (though the term had yet to be popularized in the early ’70s), a suitcase of clothes, a box of books, a guitar, and stories; stories about the people I grew up with, and my large extended family in California and Mexico.

My stories about where I lived, or the race riots …